Jan 03

My Hall Of Fame Ballot

The New York Times recently published a story claiming baseball writers softened their stance against voting for players connected with PEDs. Well, they didn’t contact me about my ballot that does not include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa or Ivan Rodriguez, all of whom have been connected to steroids.

MUSSINA: Got my vote.(Getty)

MUSSINA: Got my vote.(Getty)

I always considered it a privilege to be a Hall of Fame voter; one I take very seriously. I always believed taking steroids was cheating.

The fundamental misconception of steroids is it enables a hitter to crush a ball 500 feet or adding a couple of feet to a fastball. That’s not it. Steroids enable a player continuing to work out when exhausted. The issue isn’t added strength but increased bat speed that generates to power. For pitchers, it heightens stamina allowing him to work longer into games.

And, for all users, there’s an increase in the confidence of better production.

There have been some reporters whose litmus test to detect cheaters was the back-acne test. Every voter has their own criteria, and I have three: 1) the player had to have failed a drug test and subsequently failed in the appeal process; 2) he had to have been mentioned in the Mitchell Report or any other MLB sanctioned investigation or report; and 3) he had to have been outed, on the record, by a player, coach or baseball official.

If the Hall of Fame changes its protocols and puts on the plaque a player used PEDs – after an admission by the athlete – then I will reconsider and vote for a user.

The following were on my ballot:

Mike Mussina:  Won 20 games for the only time in his 18-year career in his final season. Of course, he could have hung on to win 300. Won at least 15 games in 11 seasons. Won 270 games, falling 30 short of what traditionally has been automatic entry. His .638 winning percentage is sixth best among those who won 250 games. Received Cy Young Award votes nine times.

Jeff Bagwell: There have been rumors, but nothing substantiated. He garnered 71.6 percent of the vote last year – missing out by 15 votes – and every player who received at least 65 percent of the vote got in. Bagwell hit over 30 homers in nine of his 15-year career with Houston. He averaged over 100 runs scored and 100 RBI per season during his career.

Tim Raines: Is on the ballot for the final time before going to the veteran’s committee. He’s arguably one of history’s greatest leadoff hitters, joining Pete Rose, Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson. He was a lifetime .294 hitter with a .385 on-base percentage and stole 808 bases in 954 attempts (the best percentage in history at 84.7 percent).

Trevor Hoffman: A seven-time All-Star finished with 601 saves in his 18-year career. His career hits-per-innings ratio of 6.9 leads all relievers. Recorded at least 30 saves in 14 of 15 seasons and had over 40 nine times.

Lee Smith:  What is wrong with being a compiler? You have to pretty good to hang around for 18 seasons and have 13 straight years of 20-plus saves, 10 of 30-plus saves and three of 40 or more. He ranks 12th all-time in games pitched with 1,022. He ranks third all-time with 478 saves.

Edgar Martinez: Designated hitter is an official position, so why should he be penalized for playing the majority of his games there? MLB named its award for best DH in his honor. Martinez hit at least .300 in ten seasons and is one of nine players to hit 300 homers, 500 doubles, a career average over .300, a career on-base percentage over .400 and a slugging percentage over .500.

Fred McGriff: This one I call a testament for hitting clean. It used to be 500 homers was automatic entry into the Hall of Fame; McGriff hit 493 in 19 seasons. He hit over 30 homers ten times and drove in at least 100 runs eight times. No whispers about him doing it the right way.

Jan 06

Writers Do Right By Piazza

Finally. The Baseball Writers Association of America did right today by putting slugging catcher Mike Piazza into the Hall of Fame along with Ken Griffey. As far as I’m concerned my colleagues also got it right by keeping PED cheaters Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa out. I also think the writers whiffed with Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Mussina.

Piazza, who fell 28 votes shy last year, received 365 votes for 83 percent of those cast to go in as history’s top home run hitting catcher and is arguably one of the top three of all time at the position along with Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra.

PIAZZA and SEAVER: The Mets' best. (AP)

PIAZZA and SEAVER: The Mets’ best. (AP)

“It’s the first time in a long time I’ve been speechless,” Piazza told the MLB Network. “Nothing can prepare you when you do get that call. It’s just something you can’t describe. …To be in an institution such as the Hall of Fame, is an amazing honor.”

Not surprisingly, Piazza mentioned his home run against Atlanta following 9-11 as a milestone memory.

“Obviously, a lot of people remember the home run in the first game after 9/11,” Piazza said. “When I think back now I start to get emotional. … From the first day in New York to the great teams we had in the late-90s, early 2000s was just very special.”

While the post 9-11 homer was clearly emotional, another memory came during the 2000 season when the Yankees’ Clemens beaned him, and then during the World Series – perhaps in a fit of Roid Rage – threw part of Piazza’s broken bat at him.

Piazza fell short in his previous three chances on the ballot because of the suspicion of PED use. But, other than a few busy-body writers talking about his back acne, Piazza never failed a drug test, did not appear on the Mitchell Report findings and never had another player accusing him on the record.

The same could not be said about Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and Sosa.

Because there was never any doubt he played cleanly, it was speculated Griffey would become the first unanimous selection, but inexplicably there were three writers who did not vote for Griffey. Presumably, their twisted line of thinking was there should not be a unanimous selection.

Normally I defend my colleagues, but not this time. While I don’t agree with those who vote for the PED users, there is no defending their logic. They got it right with Piazza, but these three voters hurt the BBWAA. Even so, Griffey went in with the highest percent of the vote to pass Seaver.

What remains for Piazza is the decision as to what cap he’ll go in with – the Hall says it should be where the player “made his biggest mark,” and that probably will be the Dodgers, and when the Mets will retire his number.

There should be not a matter of “if” Piazza’s No. 31 will be honored.

Jan 02

My 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot

griffey piazza

I had intended to publicize my Official Hall of Fame ballot before Christmas, but some health issues prevented me from proceeding as planned. So here it is, without further adieu, the nine players I submitted for the Class of 2016.

1. Ken Griffey Jr. – One of the greatest players of all time and a great ambassador for the game. Staggering offensive numbers despite missing four seasons worth of games due to injuries. If healthy, he would have broken Aaron’s HR mark cleanly.

2. Trevor Hoffman – An amazing 601 saves. Put Hoffman on all those great Yankee teams and they still win all those games. When he entered a game to “Hell’s Bells” it was a spectacle.

3. Mike Piazza – It’s sad that he wasn’t a first ballot guy because some colleagues bought into unfounded rumors and accusations. One of the game’s greatest offensive catchers along with Bench and Berra who almost always delivered in the clutch.

4. Jeff Bagwell – Another no-doubt Hall of Famer who like Piazza has been victimized by suspicion. One of the most dominating first basemen in his era and for a time one of the most feared sluggers in the National League.

5. Lee Smith – He was a personal favorite of mine. I still fail to understand the criticism of people who say he’s a compiler of stats. He was a dominant closer and nearly missed winning three Cy Young awards.

6. Mike Mussina – Very underrated pitcher who won 270 games despite only winning 20 games once – in his final season in 2008. Talk about going out on top. A .638 winning percentage and a career 1.191 WHIP to go with seven Gold Gloves.

7. Edgar Martinez – Some penalize him because he was a DH, but 500+ doubles, 300+ homers, 1,200_ walks, 1,200+ RBI and a career .312/.418/.515 slash should make him a no-brainer for inclusion.

8. Fred McGriff – Just shy of 500 home runs and over 1,500 RBI back when it was still a rare feat. Nine seasons of over 140 OPS+ production and a .917 OPS in postseason play.

9. Tim Raines – One of the best leadoff hitters of all time. The Rock retired with a .385 OBP, 808 stolen bases and 1,571 runs scored.

There you go, I look forward to your comments.

Jan 06

Hall Of Fame Reaction

Better, but not good enough.

The results have been announced and John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson were voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America. All four were on my ballot, but I voted for six others who didn’t make the cut.

Here’s my ballot and reaction:

Craig Biggio: He should have been voted in last year. I don’t understand people downplaying his over 3,000 hits by calling him a “compiler.’’ You have to be pretty damn good for a long time to get that many hits.

Mike Piazza: I hear the steroid rumors, but a few back pimples shouldn’t be enough to disqualify him. He’s the best hitting catcher the game ever saw. The PED accusations aren’t founded and circumstantial.

Jeff Bagwell: Like Piazza, he’s done in by innuendo and it’s a shame.

Tim Raines: Isn’t he one of the three best leadoff hitters in history along with Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock? He is, and that should be his ticket.

Lee Smith: No love for him, but he’s third on the career list with over 400 saves.

Edgar Martinez: I don’t think he’ll get in and that’s too bad. Designated hitter is an official position and he did it as well as anybody.

Mike Mussina: If he hung around for another two years he would have won 300 games and this probably would have been a moot point. There were others more dominant, but Mussina was consistently good for a long time with 17 straight seasons with double-digit victories, and 11 overall with fifteen or more victories.

Randy Johnson: He was dominating and a no-brainer with over 300 victories and 4,875 strikeouts. Even so, some didn’t vote for him. Now, that’s a joke.

Pedro Martinez: I knew he’d make it with an average season of 17-8 with a 2.93 ERA and 217 innings pitched. Don’t forget three Cy Young Awards.

John Smoltz: I am really glad he got in. He was a joy to watch. He would have won over 300 games if he weren’t busy saving 154.

 

Jan 08

Tom Glavine Gets Into Hall; Examining The Process

The baseball writers got it both right and wrong with the today’s Hall of Fame announcement, and in the process issued a strong statement on the PED issue.

The no-brainers were Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas; three dominant players that did it cleanly. Glavine played for the New York Mets, as did Mike Piazza, who fell short again.

GLAVINE: Bound for Cooperstown.

GLAVINE: Bound for Cooperstown.

Maddux, Glavine and John Smoltz – the latter will be eligible next year – were the driving force behind those Atlanta teams that dominated the National League for nearly 15 years. Their manager was Bobby Cox, who will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

While the bulk of Glavine’s numbers were compiled with the Braves, he won his 300th game as a Met, and this afternoon reflected on his time in Queens.

“I would summarize it as a great five years of my career,’’ said Glavine, who was 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA in 164 starts as a Met. Of those starts, 56 were in games he either lost or took a no-decision while giving up three or fewer runs.

“I had a lot of fun in New York,’’ Glavine continued. “I certainly made a lot of great friends there as teammates and people within the organization. It was a fun five years, albeit a tough five years at times for my family with me being gone. But it was a fun five years for them. It was a great experience being in New York and playing in New York. It’s an experience, I think, every player should have.

“I’ll always have fond memories for the Mets organization for the opportunity, but also because I won my 300th game in their uniform. That’s something I certainly will never forget.’’

Unfortunately, many Mets fans – and some in the media – won’t forget Glavine’s last game when he didn’t make it out of the first inning in the 2007 season finale. That season the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play.

“On behalf of everyone at the Mets, we congratulate Tom Glavine on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame,’’ Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. “We are proud that Tom won his 300th game as a Met and were fortunate to have him on our club. His excellence as a player is equaled by his excellence as a person.’’

While Glavine’s outing that afternoon represents a black cloud in Mets’ history, Piazza’s homer against Atlanta in the first game played in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, authored one the franchise’s golden moments.

Piazza gained percentage points in the balloting, rising from 57.8 percent last year to 62.2 percent. That could be an encouraging sign.

“On behalf of the organization and our fans, Mike is a true Hall of Famer,’’ Wilpon said. “We proudly display his plaque in the Mets Hall of Fame, and we’re hopeful that he’ll soon have one hanging in Cooperstown.’’

It might happen eventually for Piazza, but it should happen next year for Craig Biggio, who has over 3,000 career hits, of which 1,104 were for extra bases. That’s more than Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Honus Wagner, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

Biggio actually has only 14 fewer extra-base hits than Thomas, whom many considered a slamdunk. Thomas was an outspoken critic of PED usage as a player and reiterated his position today.

“I’ve got to take the right stance, too,’’ Thomas said. “No, they shouldn’t get in. There shouldn’t be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame.

“What I did was real that’s why I’ve got this smile on my face right now because of the writers. They definitely got it right.’’

Biggio is one I believe the writers got wrong. Also, Piazza. The others are debatable. Biggio should be rectified next year as he only fell two votes shy.

It’s unlikely Piazza will make up the percentage points needed to reach the mandatory 75 percent by next year. While there is no documented link to PED use by Piazza, steroids remained a hot button issue, one not likely to go away soon.

Roger Clemens dropped from 37.6 to 35.4 percent of the vote; Barry Bonds fell from 36.2 to 34.7 percent; Sammy Sosa went from 16.9 to 11.0 percent; and Rafael Palmeiro dropped off the ballot completely, going from 8.8 to 4.4 percent.

I did not vote for any player linked to PEDs either by failing a drug test, being named on a MLB sanctioned survey, such as the Mitchell Report; or one accused on the record by another player with proof.

This did not apply to Piazza or Jeff Bagwell. It does to Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sosa.

While there is no mandate from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball banning PED users, there is one regarding gambling which applies to Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

PED use is a tangled mess in large part because it had tacit approval from Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig for allowing its use after the 1994-95 strike season – which killed the World Series in 1994 – in an effort to jack up attendance.

Some writers, such as myself, won’t vote for anybody with a PED link, but will submit an honest ballot after considerable research.

What irks me most about the process are writers who make a joke of their ballot. One Los Angeles-based writer submitted one name, Jack Morris, but ignoring 300-game winners Maddux and Glavine. What about the other nine slots? If you’re going to take the effort to vote in Morris, as I also did, how come you couldn’t find another worthy candidate?

Then there is Dan Le Batard, who gave his vote to Deadspin in form of protest. The Baseball Writers Association is researching ways to improve the process, for example allowing more than ten votes.

One suggestion I have would be to suspend Le Batard’s vote. It’s a privilege to vote, one earned after ten consecutive years in the BBWAA. It’s not a joke as Le Batard made his out to be.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos